After watching Marcus Stroman and Mark Buehrle struggle in the team’s last two games, the Toronto Blue Jays desperately needed a knockout performance from inconsistent starter Drew Hutchison last night.
The Jays couldn’t afford to fall any further behind the Baltimore Orioles in the chase for American League East supremacy, and the Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners were all nipping at their heels for the final Wild Card spot. In fact, Toronto’s lead for the final Wild Card spot had shrunk to half a game – a statistical anomaly due to fact the Jays have played more games than their closest competitors.
To put it in the simplest terms possible, things didn’t look good for the Jays and there was little reason to expect a turnaround outing from Hutchison. He definitely didn’t look like a potential saviour for the club.
Hutchison had won only one of his last five starts going into last night’s action, allowing 21 runs in just 23.1 innings of work over that span. He lasted only three innings in his last start – he got beat for four quick runs and chased early by the lowly Houston Astros on Sunday.
This set the table for last night, but if Hutchison is injured, tired or lacking confidence right now, it didn’t show at all.
He delivered arguably his best performance of the year – a performance that came against the hard-hitting and high-flying Orioles. Hutchison cruised through 8.2 innings of work, allowing one earned run off one hit (a home run, unfortunately) for the entire night. He also tossed out eight batters while limiting the free passes to one.
Of the 115 pitches he threw, 76 landed for strikes. If that wasn’t good enough, his 8.2 innings of work easily surpass the combined 7 innings of work put together by Stroman and Buehrle across the team’s two previous games. I’m sure the bullpen was especially thankful for Hutchison’s strong start.
With the 5-1 win, the Jays now have a chance to push for the series victory tonight. A second straight win against the Orioles would certainly help their playoff chances – there’s nothing better than a win against the team ahead of you in the standings – and keep the Wild Card picture stable for another day.